And so it begins. As it does at this point in every season, the pace of fantasy football is about to accelerate: The festive period is poised to deliver us eleven rounds of matches in just over seven weeks. Neglect your squad for even a day and you could miss a vital deadline.
But fear not! NMA shall be right on pace with all the player selection articles and team news you need to make timely fantasy management moves. Prakhar has already posted his game-week 13 FPL Player Picks article, and Paul has done the same for Fantrax Player Picks. I’ve also posted an FPL Rate My Team article that may help shape your thinking for this round of play.
So with GW-13 team selection already comprehensively covered, it’s time to bring you team news. Be sure to follow the comments for post-publication updates, including confirmed lineups for the round’s first match: Wolverhampton vs Chelsea. We should have those starting-XIs about an hour ahead of the Fantrax deadline.
Tuesday 15 December
Wolves vs Chelsea
Both of these sides lost on Saturday. For Wolves it was just a continuation of their recent poor form, but for Chelsea the defeat on Merseyside ended a 14-game unbeaten run across all competitions. Both clubs will be looking to rebound from their weekend defeats when they square off at the Molineux.
Wolves outs/doubts: Raul Jimenez suffered a skull fracture in the game against Arsenal on 29 November and will be sidelined for a significant spell. Jonny is a long-term absentee with a knee injury. João Moutinho will serve a one-match ban for the two yellows he was shown over the weekend.
Chelsea outs/doubts: Christian Pulisic is a doubt; Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi are out. All three are dealing with hamstring injuries.
Manchester City vs West Brom
If I had offered you a bet that West Ham and Southampton would both sit higher in the table than Manchester City after twelve rounds of play, I’m guessing you would have taken that wager. Who’d have thunk it, right? Well that’s exactly what happened this weekend, when the Hammers and the Saints both won, while City could only manage a draw from the Manchester Derby.
That’s probably bad news for West Brom. Now six points adrift of first place, Pep Guardiola needs a win tomorrow, so he’ll probably roll out a full-strength side. I can’t see the one-win Baggies finding a way to deal with that, but then I didn’t imagine Fulham would draw against Liverpool on the weekend either, so we watch and see.
City outs/doubts: Sergio Aguero was left out of the derby squad due to gastroenteritis, but he wasn’t expected to start anyway. Eric Garcia is out for several weeks with a leg injury.
West Brom outs/doubts: Slaven Bilic has no new injury concerns, but Matheus Perreira will serve the second game of a three-match ban.
Wednesday 16 December 2020
Arsenal vs Southampton
Fourth in the table meets fifteenth, predictable on paper, right? Wait, what? Saints are fourth with Arsenal fifteenth? Yup, the Gunners are on a five game winless streak (L D L L L) after losing to 17th-place Burnley yesterday, dropping them perilously close to the relegation scrap. Only Sheffield’s form is worse in the last five matches.
With just one win in their last eight, they are desperately in need of a reversal of fortune, and so are perhaps unfortunate to welcome the in-form Saints to the Emirates on Wednesday. Southampton hasn’t lost a league match since September!
It’s strange days indeed when the Saints sit in a Champions League position while Arsenal flirt with the relegation zone, but that is exactly why we love the Premier League so much!
Arsenal outs/doubts: David Luiz (head), Reiss Nelson (head), Sead Kolasinac (knock), and Gabriel Martinelli (match fitness) are all doubts. Tomas Partey will miss out with a thigh injury. Hector Bellerin will serve a one-match ban for yellow-card accumulation, while Granit Xhaka will serve the first game of a three match ban for a violent conduct red-card.
Southampton outs/doubts: Ralph Hassenhüttl has a fully-fit squad available for selection.
Leeds vs Newcastle
Here we have two teams headed in opposite directions. While Leeds lost two in a row to fall to 14th, Newcastle notched back-to-back wins to rise into 12th. The wins were the first pair the Magpies have strung together since the lockdown ended.
Marcelo Bielsa will be desperate to get back on track on Wednesday, having slipped three places in just a fortnight. But the Magpies now seem to be fully clear of the coronavirus outbreak that swept through their camp, and they are unbeaten in their last five trips to Elland Road (and I dare anyone to name any player who took the field for either team the last time Leeds hosted Newcastle and won!).
Leeds outs/doubts: Diego Llorente will be out for three weeks with a hip injury.
Newcastle outs/doubts: Ryan Fraser (hamstring) and Jamaal Lascelles (thigh) are nearing fitness, and Allan Saint-Maximin is still a doubt with a muscle problem. Paul Dummett and Martin Dubravka remain unavailable.
Leicester vs Everton
The Foxes made short work of Brighton on Sunday, cruising to a 3-0 win that kept them within striking distance of the summit. However, anything less than full points from the Toffees could see them leapfrogged by Chelsea and/or Southampton.
Everton pulled off an important win over Chelsea on Saturday, the three points boosting them up to 7th place. Carlo Ancelotti’s men also kept their first clean sheet in 13 games across all competitions. They will now try to string together back-to-back league wins for the first time since the beginning of October.
Leicester outs/doubts: Caglar Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira are on the mend from groin injuries but are not yet ready to feature. Timothy Castagne is a doubt with a hamstring injury, and although Daniel Amartey’s hamstring has healed, he is still developing match fitness. Jonny Evans will serve a one-match ban for yellow-card accumulation.
Everton outs/doubts: Fabian Delph, Lucas Digne, and Jean-Philippe Gbamin all remain unavailable. Seamus Coleman (hamstring) and James “call me Hammess” Rodriguez (calf) are doubts.
Fulham vs Brighton
Having faced Leicester, Manchester City, and Liverpool in their last three, Fulham will be happy to welcome 16th-place Brighton to Craven Cottage on Wednesday. Scott Parker was surely gutted to share points with Liverpool after Mohamed Salah leveled the score with a late penalty kick, but he can’t be too disappointed at having taken four points from those three difficult matches.
On the other hand, the Seagulls are on an eleven game winless streak and have taken only two points from their last six games. But their last three were Liverpool, Southampton, and Leicester, so like Parker, Graham Potter is probably looking at this round’s opponent with a feeling of relief.
Fulham outs/doubts: Kenny Tete and Terence Kongolo are building match fitness, and Aleksandar Mitrovic is a doubt with an ankle injury.
Brighton outs/doubts: Tariq Lamptey (hamstring) and Adam Lallana (groin) could both be in contention for Fulham. José Izquierdo continues to build match fitness, but after a year and a half on the sidelines he will need more time.
Liverpool vs Tottenham
The champions host the leaders in this one. Tied on points at 25, the two sides have identical records and are separated only by goal difference. While the mouths of football fans around the globe water in anticipation of a top-of-the-table cracker, the clubs who are chasing these two teams would be happy to see them share points, just as both teams did in their respective matches over the weekend.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how these two legendary managers lunge and parry when the pitched battle between the league’s best offense kicks off against the league’s best defense. And knowing Jose Mourinho, you just have to think he’s aching to be the one to end Liverpool’s unbeaten home streak at 65 games.
Liverpool outs/doubts: Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Xherdan Shaqiri, James Milner, and Thiago Alcantara all remain unavailable, and Diogo Jota is now out with a knee injury that will sideline him until February. Joel Matip (back) and Naby Keita (unknown) are nearing fitness, with Jurgen Klopp hopeful that Matip can feature against Spurs.
Tottenham outs/doubts: Erik Lamela remains unavailable, and is now joined by Japhet Tanganga, who dislocated his shoulder.
West Ham vs Crystal Palace
West Ham have won four of their last five and sit just three points outside the Champions League positions, and a win could see them climb into the top four. But the Eagles did the double over the Hammers last season, and will be full of confidence tomorrow after holding the league-leading Spurs to a draw last time out. Just three points separates these two teams, so this match promises to be hotly-contested.
West Ham outs/doubts: Arthur Masuaku is a serious doubt with a knee injury, as is Michail Antonio with a hammy.
Crystal Palace outs/doubts: Tyrick Mitchell missed the Spurs match with a cold. Connor Wickham, Wayne Hennessey, and Martin Kelly remain unavailable. Nathan Ferguson has recovered from his knee injury but suffered a thigh strain while building match fitness and won’t feature.
Thursday 17 December 2020
Aston Villa vs Burnley
After jumping out to a 5-0 start to the season, including victories over Liverpool and Leicester, the Villans have gone sideways more recently, winning only two of their last six. They still sit in the top half of the table, but they lead 11th-place Palace by just a single point. They’ll want a result against lowly Burnley on Thursday, but they’ll be without first-team regulars Matty Cash and Douglas Luiz, both of whom are suspended.
After an atrocious start (although not as bad as Sheffield United’s!), the Clarets notched their first win of the season four games ago and then added another impressive win by defeating shambolic Arsenal on Sunday. They appear to be righting their ship; eight of their nine points have come in just the last five games. Sean Dyche will try to keep things moving in the right direction when his side travels to Villa Park on Thursday.
Villa outs/doubts: Kenan Davis (ankle) and Ross Barkley (hamstring) are both doubts. Tom Heaton has returned to training but needs more time. Wesley is a long-term absentee.
Burnley outs/doubts: Dale Stephens, Phil Bardsley, and Jack Cork are all building match fitness after recovering from various injuries. Johann Gudmundsson is a doubt with a hamstring injury.
Sheffield United vs Manchester United
Twelve games in, the Blades remain winless and nailed to the floor of the table on just a single point. Not much to say here; they’re just really bad. Historically bad, actually.
United drew nil-nil hosting City in the Manchester derby last time out, leaving them still undefeated in five. That unbeaten streak has seen them claw their way up to 8th place, only five points shy of first. A win on Thursday could lift them into the top five, and it’s hard to see them losing. Their away form is spectacular: nine in a row on foreign soil. Also, SHU is 3rd-tier terrible.
Sheffield outs/doubts: Oliver McBurnie is a serious doubt with a shoulder injury. A knee injury has ended Jack O’Connell’s season.
United outs/doubts: Marcos Rojo has returned to training and is building match fitness. Edinson Cavani has also returned to training after suffering a knock against West Ham.
Can Sheffield United finally pull off its first win? Who will win the chess match between Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho? Whom are you dropping this week, and whom are you bringing in? Any team news to share? Please join us in the comments to share late-breaking team news, and then let’s call the action together once games kick off!
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